This week, with the death of Hillary Clinton's mother, we got some insight into the major female influence in the life of one of the most accomplished women of our time. The New York Times obituary and an article in New York reveal Dorothy Rodham, a woman who lived to see her daughter run for President and become Secretary of State before she passed away Tuesday at the age of 92, as a loving mother who managed to give her daughter the upbringing she missed. In her book, Living History, Secretary Clinton contrasted her upbringing with her mother's difficult childhood, writing: "I'm still amazed at how my mother emerged from her lonely early life as such an affectionate and levelheaded woman."
According to The New York Times, Clinton "credited her mother with giving her a love of the higher learning that Mrs. Rodham never had, a curiosity about a larger world that Mrs. Rodham had not seen, and a will to persevere — about which Mrs. Rodham knew a great deal."
In a particularly touching moment in the Times obituary, Secretary Clinton recalled how her mother taught her to stand up for herself: At age 4, she returned home in tears after a neighborhood bully taunted her. "You have to face things and show them you're not afraid," her mother told her. If she was hit again, Mrs. Rodham advised, "hit her back."
"She later told me she watched from behind the curtain as I squared my shoulders and marched across the street," Mrs. Clinton wrote. "I returned a few minutes later, glowing with victory."
All of which is a reminder of how we are all shaped by the women who raised us. With that in mind, We thought we'd take a look at other women who have led successful careers who credit their mothers (and, in some cases, grandmothers) with instilling in them the tools to succeed in the world:
PHOTOS: Famous Women and The Mothers Who Raised Them
New York State Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand calls her grandmother, Dorothea "Polly" Noonan, the highly influential Democrat from Albany, right hand to 11-term Albany Mayor Erastus Corning and long-serving president of Albany County Democratic Women, "my greatest political hero," she told The New York Times. Accepting her appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Gillibrand hearkened back to her Grandmother as the inspiration for her own political career: "As a 10-year-old girl, I would listen to my grandmother discuss issues, and she made a lasting impression on me ... What I admired so much about her was her passion. I thought, 'Someday I may serve, someday I may be part of this,'" reported the Times.
Sometimes it takes two generations to achieve a goal: Kiran Desai, winner of the Man Booker Prize for her 2006 novel, The Inheritance of Loss, grew up with a female writer in the family: her mother, novelist Anita Desai, was shortlisted three times for the award her daughter eventually won. Kiran Desai seeks a link between her mother's integrity -- as both a parent and as a writer -- and the place writing has in her own life: "This intense love for writing, for literature that she had has had a very spiritual effect on us. Even today, when I work with my mother, I see that she has this effect on me. There has always been an immense integrity to her both as a mother and as a writer as well," she said in a 2008 interview.
Author and Emmy-Award winning journalist and senior analyst for NPR Cokie Roberts credits her mother, Lindy Boggs, a longtime Democratic Congresswoman from Louisiana, with sparking her interest in politics. She told NEH Chairman Bruce Col that watching her mother go from a political wife in Washington during the 1940s and 50s (she was married to Hale Boggs, a member of the House of Representative and former House Majority Leader) in a social circle that included Lady Bird Johnson, Pauline LaFon Gore, and Betty Ford -- to seeing her mother running for office and serving nine terms in the Senate had a huge influence on her career. She told Cole: I became interested in what happened when a woman went from being behind the scenes to the person in power. Women in politics has been a very important subject over the last twenty years. The women's vote has been determinative in many elections. What it's based on and what it's not based on have been subjects that I have spent a lot of time writing about.
Music idol Diana Ross went on "Oprah" with her five children to talk about what a blessing they have been in her life. And it appears the blessing goes both ways, at least for daughter Tracee Elliss Ross, a former model, fashion contributor at Mirabella, and actress on "Girlfriends," "Five" and the new show "Reed Between The Lines." The younger Ross got more than her famous mother's striking looks: She also shares her stunning sense of fashion. She told S2S Magazine that her personal style was influenced by her Mom, and recounted how she used to play in her Mom's closet as a girl. ""She's such a good mom," the younger Ross told Black Gay Gossip. When asked about the best advice she received from Mom, she replied: "trust myself and have fun."
Unlike the Clintons, where the daughter achieved the success the mother always dreamed for her, actress Kate Hudson had the film career of her famous mom, Goldie Hawn, to inspire her when it came to forging her own success. Both Hudson and Hawn have won Golden Globes, and Hudson wrote about the lessons she learned from her mother in The Sun this past April. In that piece, Hudson credits her mom with instilling in her a respect for the public as the source of any current and future success, and to respect and embrace herself: My mum always celebrated the female body, so she gave me confidence. I felt that when I started becoming a woman and getting my figure, it was celebrated. I will instill in my children the idea you should always be open about your body -- though you should respect your body ... I have been able to deal with the pressures of Hollywood, thanks to those early lessons from my mum.
Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann comes from a dynasty of famous women. Like her mother, actress and model Isabella Rossellini, she has been the face of Lancome, and both women may have good genes to thank: Elettra's grandmother (and Isabella's mother) is three-time Oscar winning actress Ingrid Bergman. But Elettra is more than her looks: in addition to her successful modelling career, she is pursuing a masters degree in Biomedicine at the London School of Economics and helped launch the solar-powered hospital building charity JustOneFrickinDay.com in Burundi, Africa. This well-balanced 27-year-old credits her Mom -- who lost her contract with Lancome when the company deemed she was "past her prime," according to the New York Post -- with giving her a sense of balance in her life : "My mom came home from work every day and had dinner with me. It wasn't like we had these conversations about the impact of neorealism on cinema. It was just me being with my family," she told the Post.